The mother of a 20-year-old woman who was found gouging out her own eyes while outside of a church is speaking out about how her daughter is recovering — and warning others about the dangers of illegal drugs.
Kaylee Muthart frightened local residents in Anderson, South Carolina, when they found her gouging out both of her eyes with her own hands while in a drug-induced hallucination on February 6. In her delirium, the young woman fought off help from locals who tried to stop her. It eventually took a team of deputies to control Kaylee long enough to render aid before she was placed on a stretcher and flown to the trauma unit at Greenville Memorial Hospital, where doctors worked to clean what was left inside her orbital sockets to prevent infection. Once Kaylee’s mother arrived, doctors broke the news that her daughter was completely blind.
“That was a struggle, I can’t even explain that feeling when I found out, it was horrifying. Complete terror,” Katy Tompkins—mother to Kaylee and six other children—tells PEOPLE. “I was thankful she was alive, but I knew something was wrong with her.”
Tompkins says Kaylee started using methamphetamine—an illegal stimulant that increases the amount of dopamine in the brain—about six months before the gruesome incident took place.
Doctors believe Kaylee used meth that was likely laced with another chemical on the day of the incident, which caused her to have hallucinations that the world was “upside down” and hear voices that told her to “sacrifice her eyes” in order to make it to heaven.
Tompkins says her daughter’s meth addiction began when Kaylee unknowingly used meth-laced marijuana sometime after she moved out of her house last year. Kaylee soon sought out the dangerous drug, which can cause hyperthermia, convulsions, cardiovascular issues and insomnia, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Tompkins says the family tried to convince Kaylee to get help, and just days before her hallucinogenic episode, Kaylee told her mother she would enter rehab the following week.
“The day before it happened, which was my birthday, I was getting ready to have her committed, just to get her off the streets and away from it,” she continues. “But I was too late.”
More than two weeks after the incident, Kaylee is still in the hospital, but she is making progress in what will be a long road to recovery.
“She’s been doing wonderfully. Each day at a time, she just gets a little better and better,” Tompkins says of her “charismatic and outgoing” daughter who has dreams of being a marine biologist. “She’s getting all different kinds of treatment, but she’s going to have to relearn everything. It’s like she’s almost starting life over again.”
Doctors are giving Kaylee antibiotic drops and keeping her eyelids moistened. They’ve also recommended that Kaylee receive prosthetic eyes to preserve her facial structure and keep bacteria out of the cavities. Kaylee made her mother promise to get prosthetics that match the aqua green eyes she was born with.
Once she is released from the hospital, Kaylee will move back in with her mother to help her adjust to life without sight. Tompkins has also set up a GoFundMe page to raise funds for a seeing-eye dog, which has since raised about half of its $8,000 goal.
With so many new things to adjust to, Tompkins admits she finds herself walking around the house with her eyes closed at times, so she can relate on some level to what her daughter is experiencing. The whole situation, she says, is still difficult to comprehend.
“I still haven’t grasped it yet. I can hardly look at her pictures right now, and I can’t think of her not being able to see,” she says. “I don’t like the dark, and I think, ‘Oh my gosh, that poor thing will always be in the dark.’ “
Tompkins has received messages from other parents whose children have been addicted to drugs, such as meth and other opiates.
“This is something you never think is going to happen to you, but it did,” Tompkins explains. “A lot of the mothers I talked to have kids that have been addicted to heroin for 10, 15 years and I’m like, ‘How did you get through it?’ My daughter was doing it for six months and it literally tore me up.”
Though Tompkins doesn’t have a timetable of when Kaylee may be released, she says her daughter has found a light in the darkness: she wants to tell her story in the hopes others may learn about the mistakes she made and the perils of addiction.
“I don’t know how I’m getting through it, but she has given me strength. It’s weird to say, but she uplifts me right now and she’s the one that can’t see. That’s just the kind of person she is,” Tompkins says. “I’m thankful. It’s a horrible thing, but I’m still thankful because God spared her life.”